If your New Year's resolution is to shake up your home, here are six books with exciting tips to help you get the job done.
Forget those manufactured "tiny houses." Try living inside an overturned boat. Don't shore up that collapsing wall with an expensive metal beam — use a shark's bone. And while plaster is nice, walls built of whitewashed horse dung and local grasses are nice, too, though they do have a tendency to crumble.
Reduce, reuse, recycle has become our mantra, and that makes "The Foraged Home" by Joanna Maclennan and Oliver Maclennan. (Thames & Hudson, $40) such an inspiration.
The homes pictured here are furnished with found objects: shells, twigs, seedpods, distressed armoires, broken chairs, chipped crockery, antique rugs, fishing nets and rusty lanterns. The result is that the houses look cozy and timeless. And where did the owners find such wonderful objects? Washed up on beaches, tossed into dumpsters, set out on tables at flea markets or left behind in abandoned buildings. It takes an eye to spot the potential in what most of us would consider trash.
In "Shared Living," by Emily Hutchinson. (Thames & Hudson, $29.95) brings readers inside shared houses and apartments from Tokyo to Australia to New York, showing how various groupings of people have made cohabitation work. There are commonalities in these homes: lots of potted plants, lots of light, exposed brick, curiosities hanging from the ceiling and walls (vintage chairs, tennis rackets, unusual hats). Make a statement, the author suggests. Take your time. Invest in adorable storage cubbies to keep your nest clutter-free. And it always helps to designate one person the chief decorator.
If green, as in leafy green, is your favorite color, then "Decorating With Plants" by Baylor Chapman (Artisan Books, $24.95) is a must. The book gives you the most basic of information, plant by plant: How much light do they need? How much fertilizer? What about water? What about bugs?
And once you get past the primer, the good stuff starts: where and how to hang them; which groupings look best; where to find lovely containers; how to keep your herbs thriving all year round. (And, gosh, they look pretty, drying.)
The bedrooms in "Bedtime: Inspirational Beds, Bedrooms & Boudoirs" by Celia Forner (Vendome, $60) couldn't possibly be for sleeping. The chandeliers, four-poster beds with heavy canopies, leopard-print wallpaper, clamshell bed frames and busily patterned carpeting would probably keep you awake.
Still, these bedrooms — depicted in 250 photographs and illustrations — are fascinating to look at. There's a 14th century Italian bedroom with thick walls and heavy, dark carved furniture; a 19th century bedroom resembling a Roman emperor's tent; a black velvet bedroom that belonged to Mary Queen of Scots; a stripped-down bamboo and sliding-screen Japanese bedroom. You'll find black-and white photographic evidence that these rooms were actually used by Truman Capote, Elizabeth Taylor, Hugh Hefner and others.
Bare wooden floors, scattered with a couple of hand-woven kilim rugs; whitewashed barn-wood walls; wicker hanging lamps; soapstone kitchen sinks; open shelves made of old beams, holding simple white cups and saucers. These austere yet warm rooms are what author and designer Lauren Liess calls "easy" _ "relaxed, casual and cozy" in "Down to Earth: Laid-Back Interiors for Modern Living" (Abrams, $40).
There's nothing here that you need to worry your child might break; very little that is going to be smudged or marred. (If the walls are reclaimed wood, they're already marred.)
Liess' rooms are white, primarily (except when they're black), filled with items from the natural world _ wood, stone, leather. Color comes in bursts, in the form of rugs, throw pillows and potted plants. In these 150 photographs you'll find inspiration and ideas. (And envy — oh, the big windows of these houses. It's less scary to paint your walls black if the room is flooded with light.)
For the practical homeowner, Kate Gould's "Urban Garden Design" (Kyle Books, $27.99) is a book that offers smart suggestions and lovely examples that hit just the right tone. For small gardens, for overly sunny patios, for gardeners trying to camouflage unsightly air-conditioning units, for container gardeners, for folks hoping to illuminate their night gardens — she's got the answers, stated forthrightly. She has lists of do's and don'ts; helpful information on various kinds of plants, fences, decking, pavers and grasses; and checklists for complicated projects. Dig in, and then begin.